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Vine Is Dead, Long Live Vine

Goodnight, sweet prince

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Thursday, Vine announced it is done. The looping video app launched in 2013 will shut down soon, though the website will live on and users will be able to access their old Vines (for a while you will be able to download them). But no new Vines will be created — the initially viral app, it turns out, was unable to capture long-term interest. Instead it will have to live on in our memories, as a brief, strange moment when we could watch six seconds of something over and over and over and it would only become more hilarious and captivating. What a time!

It’s not a huge surprise that Vine didn’t have staying power, and that many of its young stars bailed for newer waters the second it became even semi-stale, but we’re not quite ready to talk about that yet. (It’s still listed as “essential” in the App Store! Come on! This is all still very fresh.) Instead, let’s see Vine out the only way we know how: by celebrating the weird app that was with our favorite Vines.

Kate Knibbs: Vine gave us the funniest and most accurate music criticism of the rapper Eminem, and all it took was a six-second loop. I’ll never forgive you for this, JACK DORSEY.

Shea Serrano: How do you pick a favorite Vine? There’s a thing people say when they’re having a hard time picking a favorite thing where they go something like, “That’s like asking me to pick which one of my kids is my favorite,” but the thing is: I probably like Vine more than I like any of my kids. I appreciate the utility of it, the way it allows me to catch all of the basketball highlights I need to see on a given night, some of which are in-game things, others of which are outside of the edges of the actual game. I appreciate the way it changed the lives of kids who are (were?) really good at it — it was always such a great feeling to see someone go from Vine Star to Role in a Movie or whatever. How do you ever root against a thing like that? My favorite thing about it, though, was how weird it allowed people to get. You’re asking me what my favorite Vine is? I have no idea. Here’s a little white kid playing orchestrator to Rich Gang, though:

I miss you already, Vine.

Molly McHugh: Vine — gone too soon! This feels like proof that anything just a little too weird can’t last, but maybe that’s not true, because Ello’s still around. The only solace is that in looking for my favorite Vine, I came across so many more that I love and I know I can probably keep surfing like this for years, and only later will it hit me that the app is gone and no new Vines will be made. But anyway, here is my favorite Vine, which fulfills a few internet happiness requirements: animals doing things set to unexpected music, llamas, prancing.

Alison Herman: The key to Vine was repetition. No one six-second viewing could give you all a clip had to offer, so Vine did you the service of looping automatically, thereby giving rise to my single favorite subgenre: the hypnotic Vine, which substituted the sharp catharsis of a laugh for something more calming — nay, transporting. I’ve lost minutes of my life to that goddamn dancing chicken or this techno aficionado and her cat, but I’ve emerged with a slower heart rate and a sunnier disposition. We live in an irrational and insane world, but some enterprising Vine users set that chaos to a beat and gave it meaning. Their loops were seamless; their song choices impeccable; their rhythm strangely soothing. I’ll always be grateful to them.

Jason Concepcion:

Because these lyrics are timeless.

Rodger Sherman: Two Vines stand out to me above all else. First, there is Dank-Ass Sandboarding:

Then, there is Taylor Swift Being Interrupted by the Kid Who Says “LeBron James”:

Both are perfect, and I will miss both dearly.

They share a few common traits. The first is that the punch line in each comes in the last 0.8 seconds of the Vine. Very few Vines brought start-to-finish humor. They brought five seconds of set-up, and something funny as hell in the last second that made your brain decide to loop through the first five seconds again. That punch line could be entertaining once, 10 times in a row, 100 times in a row, and if you closed the Vine and reopened it in a year, it’d still be funny.

The other is that neither of them is actually an original Vine. Dank-Ass Sandboarding is just the best six seconds of the longer Dank-Ass Sandboarding Son video. Even the caption to the Vine — “slide into your dm’s like” — is a reference to Twitter. And Taylor + LeBron James kid is a Taylor Swift video mixed up with the LeBron James kid Vine.

I know somewhere out there, Cool Teens were making funny Vines exclusively for Vine. But 99 percent of what was funny on there were clips of people filming their TVs and mashups of songs with preexisting videos. But Vine made them loop, so they stole our hearts.

Victor Luckerson: The world may not be flat, but the internet is. No matter how old, new, important, or irrelevant a piece of media is, they’re all equidistant from the Google search bar. The very best Vines capitalized on this by plucking two incongruous items from totally different worlds — let’s say a clip of George Costanza gallivanting through New York and the song “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” — and making them bizarrely harmonious. Vine wasn’t the first platform to make this possible — who among us hasn’t watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers with the volume off while listening to trap music? — but six seconds is the perfect length of time to capture the Zen-like moment when two pop culture references become one.

The thing I love about these Vines is they aren’t even jokes, really. The simple idea that two random bits of human creation could somehow be bolted together and just work, as if by cosmic design, is enough to delight us and make us laugh. I’ll miss the joy Vine wrung out of all the random pop culture minutiae that was already rattling around in our heads.

Micah Peters: The best Vines weren’t the scripted ones where they spend two of the six seconds setting the scene and providing sufficient context or whatever. Similar to how the best jokes on Twitter are the ones you don’t really understand but seem well-constructed, the best Vines are the ones where you arrive somewhere in the middle of the story with no clue how you got there or what comes after. You also don’t know why you’re there in the first place. But shit, man. You’re so glad you came.

This Vine has somewhere around 4,892,000 loops (at time of publishing), and I probably account for 4,891,999 of those, which means that I’ve spent about 340 days toying with the same questions. How did the two girls know that their younger sister was going to be walking through the frame at that exact time? Why does the younger sister know the words to that Miguel song? I always get close to some sort of explanation before deciding that it’s so much more fun — and just better — not to know.

Piecing together a grand, unified theory just meant that I was missing the entire forest to stare at the grooves on the stump of a single tree. Great art — the kind that endures — isn’t meant to be solved. It’s meant to be enjoyed.

Vine taught me that.

Ryan O’Hanlon: You know that super-tender, mushy feeling you get when you say goodbye to someone you love at an airport? George Saunders has talked about how his biggest regret is not spending more of his life in that clear-eyed, concentrated, appreciative mode of being. I feel that — except I want to spend more time wherever the fuck this guy is:

Julie Kliegman: This is the Vine I proudly tell visitors to my OkCupid profile that “I spend a lot of time thinking about.” Here, what Alex Trebek tried to do, apparently, was recite the lyrics to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” as part of a Jeopardy! clue, but make no mistake, he essentially just coughed up a hairball on national TV.

I know this doesn’t seem to capture the spirit of Vine. I’m not a monster, so most of my favorites involve unassuming babies or goofy-ass teens, people we can all feel good about laughing with and rooting for. Jeopardy! memes, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen, and they don’t need our love or attention. Trebek himself certainly doesn’t. Plus, this Vine is one of the least visually interesting of all time.

But it’s that simple structure that I most appreciate — the anticipation of how he’ll say these words, the horror of listening to him say them, and the confusion of realizing that correctly pronouncing “eh” should be in his repertoire, as a Canadian. I could look up a YouTube clip, or even make one of my own that loops the sound bite for 10 hours. But I don’t want Alex Trebek coughing up a hairball on my screen for 10 hours; I want him coughing it up indefinitely.

Katie Baker: The thing I always appreciated most about Vine is that it didn’t autoplay sound; there’s nothing worse than getting ear-Goatse’d in a coffee shop or shared coworking space. As a result, my favorite genre of Vine has always been “requires audio to understand.” While your standard Canadian Terry Tate Vine can be enjoyed on mute, there’s something compelling about a production that is so curiously mundane in silence that it compels you to fish your headphones out of the depths of your bag out of sheer FOMO. Duck Army is, of course, the GOAT. This one maybe violates the “curiously mundane” rule but is too good with sound on not to share. This one might be earnest, but it’s so pleasing. This one might be stupid, but it’s so perfect. I confess it has moved me to tears.

Rob Harvilla: There’s a cat, first of all, which feels essential, elemental. The cat does not consent, entirely, to its participation, which is also (apologies to the cat) important. The pants are transcendent; the frying pan a salient detail. But it’s all about the loop, the mesmerizing calm that settles over you, such that you watch this 30 times/for three minutes straight without intending to or even realizing it. Did you know you could Shazam a Vine? You can! Better do that fast! The loop here feels a little choppy today — it’s more seamless, a little better in my memory. As goes the app. As goes the internet. As goes life.

Claire McNear: First: sorry. I apologize for making you watch this; let this be a lesson to never click on links from strangers. Anyway, though, if you’ll forgive me long enough to let me explain: I’ve had this Vine bookmarked for years. I find it mesmerizing, as the best Vines always are — something I find myself watching over and over, returning to, and watching over and over once again. I would argue that the defining (though not, perhaps critically, unique) feature of Vines is not that they’re capped at six seconds. It’s that they loop. A good Vine tells a story that’s longer than six seconds in six seconds: The What the fuck I just watch? is caught in midair by the Vine restarting, replaying, cycling through the same thing as before. It’s a mode of storytelling that’s particularly effective for portraying horror — each viewing reveals some new detail, some new explanatory weirdness, before plunging you right back into the awfulness.

Which is to say: spiders. A lot of fucking spiders.

Allison P. Davis: January 2015. A teenage boy sits in a classroom and yells out, “everybody say sausage keep it going,” unleashing a call and response that became a Vine movement called The Sausage Movement. It’s a simple genre of video, the ones tagged #sausagemovement — just a group of teens, pounding out rhythms, making up simple rhymes about the best breakfast meat — but the results are incredible. Here’s why: These teens spit out fire verses and demonstrate a skill with entendre that is far beyond their age; the “Sausage” callout is catchy and easy enough that anyone can do it, even if you’re not a cool teen; and lastly, it’s a fun and creative way to make dick jokes. My favorite, and the most popular (though not the original Vine that started it all) would have to be “Eggs, Bacon, Grits, Sausage.” (It’s so good it even has it’s own Genius lyrics page.) Why no rapper has collaborated with this kid on a song called “Sausage” is beyond me. Desiigner, D.R.A.M., Chance, Drake, it’s not too late. Vine might be dead, but this song can live in infamy.